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Sally Hayes

Dr Sally Hayes

Senior Research Fellow

School of Optometry and Vision Sciences

+44 29208 70459
Optometry and Vision Sciences, Room Room 3.22, Maindy Road, Cathays, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ
Available for postgraduate supervision


After graduating from Aberystwyth University in 2000 with a First Class Honours in Animal (Equine) Science, I took up a 5-year MRC funded Research Assistant post within the Structural Biophysics Group at Cardiff University to investigate the relationship between corneal structure and function. In 2005 I was awarded a PhD for my research into the structural organisation of collagen in the corneas of primates and other animals and the stromal changes associated with the disease keratoconus. Since then, I have continued to follow this line of research as a Research Fellow, using X-ray scattering techniques and biochemcial methods to delve further into the structure-function relationships that exist within the cornea in health and disease, and to investigate the potential of new treatments for corneal disorders. I have a particular interest in the development and optimisation of photodynamic corneal cross-linking therapies for the management of keratoconus.






















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My current research is aimed at further understanding the relationship between structure and function in normal and diseased corneas. I am particularly interested in keratoconus, a disease characterised by progressive thinning and steepening of the cornea and severe irregular astigmatism. Keratoconus is one of the leading causes of corneal transplant surgery in the UK.

During my doctoral studies I used a combination of videokeratography to assess corneal shape, and synchrotron x-ray diffraction to gain quantitative structural information about the organisation and distribution of collagen in normal and keratoconus corneas, to examine the link between corneal structure and specific keratoconus shape changes. The findings of this study supported the theory that lamellar slippage is involved in the progressive thinning and steepening of keratoconus corneas. In recent years a therapeutic treatment has been developed to strengthen corneal tissue and halt the progressive steepening of keratoconus corneas. The treatment involves the combined use of UVA and riboflavin to stabilise corneal collagen and its surrounding matrix. I am currently investigating the mechanism by which the treatment strengthens the cornea and the ways in which the treatment can be modified to minimise patient treatment time and maximise patient comfort.

I am also interested in human corneal development, in particular the structural changes that lead to the cornea becoming strong, transparent and precisely curved. Recently granted access to the MRC/Wellcome Trust-funded Human Developmental Biology Resource (HDBR) has provided a unique opportunity to examine structural changes occurring at key stages of foetal development.

My current research is funded by a £2.4 million Medical Research Grant (on which I am a named Researcher Co-investigator) that is focussed on the development of new technologies and techniques to better understand the function of the cornea and other collagen rich tissues, and the development of therapeutic strategies for the treatment of connective tissue disorders including developmental abnormalities, disease and abnormal healing processes.

Recent Research Seminars

  • 2019: Invited speaker at the South Western Ophthalmological Society Meeting, Bristol
  • 2016, 2017, 2018: Invited speaker at the CXL Experts meeting, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2015: Invited speaker at the 11th International Congress of Corneal Cross-linking, Boston, USA
  • 2012: Speaker at the 8th International Congress of Corneal Cross-linking, Geneva, Switzerland


  • Supervision of PhD/MPhil students
  • Supervision of final year undergraduate written and practical projects.
  • Supervision of work experience students from local schools.
  • STEM engagement activities in local schools as part of the STEM Ambassador Programme



2001-2005: PhD Structural Biophysics: The structural organisation of collagen in the corneas of primates and other mammals and the stromal changes associated with the disease keratoconus. Structural Biophysics Group, School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University.

1997 - 2000: First Class Honours in Animal/Equine Science Aberystwyth University

Career history

2019-present: Researcher Co-Investigator/Research Fellow on a 5-year, £2.4 mn Medical Research Council Grant: A mechanistic understanding of corneal pathobiology and the development of novel therapeutic strategies for the                            treatment of connective tissue disorders.  Structural Biophysics Group, School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University

2018-2019: Research Fellow/Research Facilitator and Public Engagement Representative (School-funded): School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University

2005 - 2018: Research Fellow/Research Associate on two Medical Research Council Grants: (1) The collagen matrix in corneal pathology, and the effect of new therapies for loss of transparency and refractive status; (2) The ultrastructural basis of corneal dysfunction and the development and optimization of new therapies. Structural Biophysics Group, School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University

2001-2005: Research Assistant on a 5-year Medical Research Clouncil Grant: Corneal Transparency, Dioptric Power and their Alterations in Pathological Conditions. Structural Biophysics Group, School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University

Honours and awards

  • Cardiff University outstanding contribution award, 2014
  • Finalist in the Royal Institute Science Graduate of the Year Award, 2004

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology

Committees and reviewing

  • External expert reviewer for the Health Technology Wales's assessment of corneal cross-linking cost-effectiveness (undertaken on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government) (2020-present)
  • Panel member for the Wellcome Trust ISSF Public Engagement Fund (2019-present)
  • Member of the College Public Engagement Network Working Group (2019-present)
  • Member of the Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair Public Engagement Committee (2019-present)
  • Member of the School Research Committee (2014-2016 and 2018-present)
  • Member of the UK-Cross-linking Consortium Steering Committee (2013-present)
  • Member of the COVID-19 Research Prioritisation Group (March-November 2020)
  • Journal peer reviewer for Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences (2020), BMC Notes (2020), Current Eye Research (2019, 2020), Journal of Refractive Surgery (2018)
  • Editorial Board member of Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group (2018-2019)
  • External PhD examiner at Liverpool University (2019) and Manchester University (2018)
  • Member of the School Athena Swan Committee, Bronze award attained (2017-2019)
  • Faculty member of the International CXL Experts Meeting (2017-2018)
  • Member of the School Ethics Committee (2016-2019)
  • Chair of the Research Staff Forum (2012-2016)
  • Member of the International Stakeholders Committee (2009-2011)
  • Member of the School Charity Committee (2009-2011)
  • Member of the School Post Graduate Teaching Committee (2005-2007)


  • Corneal structure/function, pathology and novel therapies